Wednesday, May 25, 2016

52 Suggestions/Notes for DC on What Rebirth Needs to Do

1.      Metamorpho has already been fixed and if you don’t already know that, you haven’t been reading “Legends”.
2.      The Metal Men have already been fixed and if you don’t already know that, you haven’t been reading “Legends”.
3.      Firestorm has already been fixed and if you don’t already know that, you haven’t been reading “Legends”.
4.      Fix the Phantom Stranger.  Lordy, did Didio screw HIM up.  It’s the **** Phantom Stranger.  How do you screw up the Phantom Stranger?!?! All he needs is: no origin, no clear agenda, no name or personal details, no defined or consistent powers, no long-term allies, no relatives, no supporting cast, no particular enemies, no home city or base of operations, no--- for pete’s sake, all he needs is a consistent outfit and speech pattern.  He’s a literary cactus, STOP OVERWATERING HIM.
5.      Ditto the Question, who is a snoopy guy/gal in a mask, not an otherworld being.  Did somebody lose Denny O’Neil’s number, or what?
6.      I’m very happy that DCU characters will be smiling again!
7.      I am, however, utterly terrified that Gary Frank will be drawing them doing it.
8.      The Martian Manhunter. If Dr. Manhattan wants a fixer-upper project on Mars, we’ve got a beauty for him.  Either make him part of someone else’s dynasty (like on the Supergirl teevee who) or actually give him one of his own (with a city and a supporting cast and all that).
9.      Vibe.  If you are going to return characters to the recognizable forms…. Either let Vibe be a breakdancer OR let him be Cisco Ramon from STAR Labs.  Or BOTH, because the two are not incommensurable.  But don’t try to make him into something ELSE that just smells like Blue Beetle Del Norte.
10.   Actually Vibe has been mostly good in the New52.  But trying to make characters like Vibe stand on their own just dooms them to failure.  Let these free-floating literary particles bond with a more stable molecule.  The CW’s Flarrowverse is smart about that.  Make Vibe part of some icon’s extended dynasty (three guesses whose) and do the same with most characters.
11.   So, too, with  many VILLAINS.  This is an idea rarely explored (except in the animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, where every villain was in a mafia of the members of the Crime Syndicate).  Don’t condemn characters like Killer Moth or the Human Flying Fish or the Human Squirrel or Mr. Moth of the Octopus to being pathetic comic relief.  Fix them by making them lieutenants in the forces of a more established villain. Or just have them fight Green Arrow.
12.   And so… give Green Arrow’s a real rogues gallery of his own.  Even if they are goofy losers, it’s still an essential element of making a character iconic.  Frankly, if you can’t find a way to make ridiculous characters like Leapo the Clown (a.k.a. Bulls-Eye) or The Octopus work, then maybe you shouldn’t be writing comic books in the first place.
13.   If want to fix Green Arrow, stop trying to make him darker than Batman. Make him BRIGHTER.  If Green Arrow starts fighting Killer Moth and the World Public Enemy gals and the Bug-Eye Bandit, I PROMISE you I will read it. 
14.   Let Lady Cop find the Killer in Boots. It will let lots of us sleep better at night.
15.   FIX LOBO. How? By omitting him from existence entirely. I can’t tell you how many disturbed psyches I am detecting on line by reading the comments on coverage of Rebirth #1 and finding people whose priority is restoring this horrible character to the status quo of his floruit.  Yeah; no.  Lobo (even when treated as comedy relief) is a prime symptom of the PROBLEM; he is not part of the solution.
16.   Have a moratorium on face removals and decapitations.  As much as I enjoy those, they do tend to set a certain tone.  

17.   Booster Gold. Not as an idiot, or even as a junior time lord.  Superman deserves some allies to help him look after Metropolis and Booster is a perfect candidate.
18.   Krypto. Period.
19.   Watch “Batman, Brave & the Bold”. That show knew how to do it right.
20.   Embrace the narration/caption box.  These aren’t movies, they are comic books, it’s okay.
21.   Let the Wildstorm characters alone. Or give them their own earth.  Because they do not fit the tone we’re aiming for.
22.   Don’t waste the Marvel Fam--I mean, the Shazams. 
23.   Fer pity’s sake, let Batwoman get married. IF she wants.
24.   Bring back the Hawks. Every other medium has no trouble making them work, why should their native one?
25.   Amerindians are people, too.  DC’s got a stable of such characters (e.g., Owlwoman, Black Condor, Saganowahna, Sky Alcasey) just waiting for a new context.
26.   No more full-page spreads.  Comics got by for many decades without them.  If I wanted pinups I’d be at conventions buying them.  I just feel like you are cheating me.
27.   Enough with decompression in general.  When I watch superhero teevee, I usually feel like they are trying to cram as much as possible into an episode. When I read comic books, I usually feel like they are trying to drag a story out into as many issues as possible.
28.   Spend some time getting the lay of the DCU’s administrative land in order.  SHADE, ARGUS, the DEO, SPRYAL, et al.; way too many government/spy organizations that have no clear lines of authority or purpose
29.   Amanda Waller is a fat lady.  And that’s okay. Please let her be.
30.   Which reminds me: GIVE ME ETTA CANDY. I mean REAL Etta Candy.
31.   Bring back the Penguin.  And as something more than a Peter Lorre-esque weasel who gets roughly up monthly for information.  I want a Penguin that might have a super-robot to battle Superman with, or who might just fight Firestorm to a standstill.  He should at least be more than enough to give Batman a run for his money.
32.   Classic Catwoman is not a hero or even a vigilante.  She’s a self-interested crook, who avoids murder.  If Batman’s needs a love interest there are PLENTY of people he can go out with other than her.  In general, stop making popular villains into heroes as a way of getting more traction of out them; this is not Marvel.
33.   Kids in comics – people like Robin and Billy Batson and Speedy – they used to be BETTER people.  Not petulant brats.  That’s WHY they were heroes and other kids weren’t. Please remember that.  Except for classic Aqualad, who, of course, was a cowardly purple-eyed big-headed freak.
34.   If you haven’t already, set down some editorial rules. It’s really not that hard.  Exceptions can be made if truly needed, but guidelines should still be in place.  If Abner Sundell can do it, so can you.
35.   As Abner Sundell would advise, please remember that the private citizen is the REAL person.  Their costumed self is their secret identity, not vice versa.  Forgetting that is part of what led us in the deconnecting , dehumanized DCU we are fixing.
36.   The first things superheroes do when they meet is TALK. Period.  THEN they join forces, if possible.  Cops don’t fight fireman and EMTs in the streets, so I expect at least that much from my SUPER-heroes.  In fact, occasionally they should bring each other ice creams cones, just because that’s a nice thing to do and makes people happy.
37.   The Red Bee.  That’s a bellwether.  Because of the DCU doesn’t have the ability to incorporate the Red Bee somehow, then something is wrong.
38.   Invest some more time in fleshing out the fictionopolises where these heroes live.  It’s a lot easier to see a hero risking his life for his/her city if we care about it too, and have some idea why they do.
39.   More generally: I need to know where characters live.  It doesn’t HAVE to be in a fictionopolis or even in a city at all.  I see Jaime Reyes talking to Ted Kord.  Do they live in the same place? Did Jaime have to travel to meet him?  Where does the Martian Manhunter live? I mean, Apex City, obviously, but SHOW/TELL that.  The only character I don’t want to know where he lives is the Phantom Stranger because MYSTERY. 
40.   You know what villains used to do? Steal stuff.  I miss villains who steal stuff rather than just mass murderers, world-conquerors, and vengeance seeks.  Let’s bring back the crooks.
41.   Try a moratorium on new characters. Of ANY kind (hero, villain, or supporting cast) for a year or two or ten.  Really, there’s only about 10,000,000 of them lying around unused in the DCU already. TRY to make do with those for a while and you’d be amazed at your own creativity.  In fact, in a further post I may just try to LIST them as a way to drive myself crazy.
42.   Let Deadman rest in peace.
43.   The hell with Etrigan. I mean that it in a loving and supportive way.
44.   Apply the previous two items to Rob Liefeld.  Except for the loving and supportive part.
45.   No one hesitated back in the day to bring Superman’s cast (Lois, Jimmy, Perry) from one medium to the other.  That’s how they became iconic characters in their own right. Stop being afraid to do that with OTHER heroes, like Teevee Supergirl, whose cast should be imported in comics.
46.   Find a way to make Miss Martian happen.
47.   And give J’onn J’onnz a proper civilian identity. “Proper”=”not a cat”.
48.   Does Cyborg HAVE to be a rock’em’sock’em robot with a sonic cannon?  Can’t we just have him be the “Oracle”?  Because everyone thinks ‘we need an Oracle” and nobody knows what to do with Cyborg. Have him work with…
49.   Mr. Terrific. And Steel.  Black people don’t always have to be the tokens in someone ELSE”s story, you know.
50.   Abandon the use of forced mechanisms for metahumor (e.g. Ambush Bug, Bat-Mite, Bizarro) and embrace character-driven humor (“Oh, Clark!”).
51.   Give Kirby’s creations a rest.
52.   Please write comics that I’m not embarrassed to give to a child as a gift.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Haikuesday: The Blue Beetles

There are many immediately great aspects to DC's Rebirth. One is the pairing of the classic Blue Beetle and the newer one.

Um...I meant the two AFTER that. Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes.

Rebirth brings them 'together again for the first time', and it is instantly perfect, with Jaime as the boy who doesn't want to be a superhero and Ted as the adult who blithely ignores that fact completely.

As well he should, for its quite clear that Jaime will be a hero. How? Heroic haiku, of course.

I'll deal, Mister Kord.
But I'm not looking to play
"Batman and Robin".

Sorry, kid; if you end a haiku with "Batman and Robin", you're pretty much destined to be a hero.

What haiku can YOU compose to celebrate the new optimism of Rebirth?

Cynical deconstructionist haiku are not eligible.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Well, we certainly are about to have a lot to talk about, thanks to "Rebirth".

Wally West

DC (I'll say it: that really means Johns because his fingerprints and name are all over this) is being especially clever this time around.  While a generation of fans were squealing, "WHY FOR YOU BURY WALLY WEST IN THE COLD COLD GROUND?!", DC was busy behind the scenes making red-haired Wallace the central character and narrator of Rebirth #1.  Nice one, DC.  

And that certainly makes ME happy. Not because I care about red-haired Wally.  I don't.  Frankly, I always thought he was kind of an insecure, dim, screw-up with codependency issues.  With Barry first and then with his mom and then with Linda "The Beacon" Park.  Especially do I not miss Linda, who was never anything more than an arbitrary Ultimate Love interest for Wally as some sort of latter day compensation for the man-whore days of his early run, and who never had a personality of her own beyond that.  She had more personality/job/look/outfit changes than a Captain Action doll.  It's really hard to get a bead on a character like that.

God knows I tried.

Sure Iris West was terrible, but at least she was CONSISTENTLY terrible, you know what I mean?

Anyway, seeing red-haired Wally return makes me happy simply because it gives me hope that all the thirty-somethings can please shut up now and stop whining.  Particularly since the Wally they are missing is actually the wise-cracking one on Justice League Unlimited and has very little to do with the hapless fool in the comics with that same name.

It won't stop their whining, of course.  Because Rebirth Wally is not The Flash, but the Kid Flash...which is what he was created to be.  I'm glad that DC finally, instead of forcing us to want what they are giving, has decided to give us what we want.  But within reason.  I mean, start giving it to chunks of irate fanboys holding their breath until 'their' version of a character comes back and before you know it we would have Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern. And nobody wants to live on THAT earth.

And Wally West

Me, I'm perfectly fine with singing, dancing Wally West from the teevee show, who somehow magically makes Iris less annoying just by standing in the same room.  And his comic book counterpart, although we haven't had a lot of time to get to know him.  Seems we will have more of him; he's clearly in the new Teen Titans.

Not the best hair-cut for guarding your secret identity, Wally.  
I'm guessing Clark Kent gave you the ball cap.

This is good news.  I don't want the resurgence of classic versions of characters to squeeze out the new more ethnically diverse cast of the DCU.  Speaking of which...

Jackson Hyde

Jackson Hyde -- who had a brief stint as Aqualad somewhere during the last few reboots -- is back, black, and getting no slack.  At least not from his mother, who provides the currently de-rigeur Parental Issue by being uncool with Jackson's having a boyfriend.  I do appreciate DC making Hyde gay (no reason not to, since he has no backstory to the contrary).  But I wish they would leave off with the "Anti-Gay Parent" schtick.  Are there people still like this? Sure.  But, increasingly we (and the DCU characters) live in a world where, well, being gay's not really a debatable issue.  Characters like Mrs. Hyde are already seeming pretty dated, and that's going to get worse going forward.  There are other ways of showing The Gay Struggle without a token condemnatory parent. Or just consider not showing Struggle at all and just showing The Gay; give that crazy idea a try, DC.  To his credit, Jackson seems to just shrug it off with, "Um, yeah, whatever, Ma, that's quaintly old-school, but I'm just a tad more focused on the fact that I seem to have aquatic superpowers for no reason I can fathom and wait I think the fish are trying to tell me something,"

A Surface Custom

Yeah, I'll confess: I teared up when Aquaman gets down on one knee before Mera (and not to find her comb), and explains that "it's a surface custom".  It sure is.  

Now we know why DC seemed to have backpedaled on Aquaman having been married to Mera; it's so we can see them get married.  Very nice one, DC.  There really has never been a cooler romantic couple in all of comics.  It's not just that they deserve to be happily married; WE deserve for them to get married.  Who knows? Maybe she won't say yes, at least not right away.  Mera's not one to do something like that lightly.  But Arthur is a nice quiet Maine boy and it's exactly what he would do. 

If she does say yes, Mera doesn't have a lot of gal pals to be bridesmaids; Batwoman maybe?  I could really go for a full underwater wedding with Batwoman et al. wearing classic fishbowl helmets on their heads.  Does Aquaman have any human relatives? Maybe a cousin named AJ?  

Wonder Brother

Wonder Woman has a twin brother. I don't know any more about that and I don't need to.  This idea is so ridiculous that I support it 100%.  Sure, "previously unknown twin" is a trite soap opera twist.   But long before 'separated at birth' was a trite soap opera twist it was a trite mythology twist.  And Wonder Woman is, at heart, a figure of mythology. The time(s?) they gave Barry Allen a separated at birth twin was achingly stupid;  it was just another way to create an anti-Flash for him to fight (because Flash writers almost never know what to do with the Flash if there's no anti-Flash for him to fight).  But for Wonder Woman it makes a lot of sense.  First of all, Zeus is her father and "Zeus fathers twins" is a pretty standard trope.  Second, it's already been established that when the Amazons had male children that they didn't keep them on the island; no further explanation for his disappearance is needed.  Third, Wonder Woman's dynasty has long needed a anti-distaff member; a missing brother will fit the bill rather nicely.  

This is concept I could get behind. So to speak.

Baby Darkseid

Darkseid, who died, is now reincarnated as Superwoman's baby.  Another "so ridiculous = 100% support from me".

I demand at least fifteen years of Baby Darkseid back-ups stories.  Baby Darkseid versus Sugar 'n' Spike. Baby Darkseid meets WonderTot, Baby Batman, and Superbaby.  Baby Darkseid. The Joker is hired as the party clown for Baby Darkseid's birthday.  Baby Darkseid's omega-beams chase the neighbor's cat.  Baby Darkseid's babysitter puts him in the microwave.  Call me, DC!


Johnny Thunder is living in a nursing home.  Again...that's all I need to know.  The Flash story (Flash V2 #134) where Johnny Thunder, addled by senility, gives Jay Garrick his pen and tells him to look after his dog is one of the greatest DC stories ever told; it still makes me cry and gives me chills.  [If I agree with these guys, it must be true.]

The fact that we know Johnny exists is the ONLY thing needed to bring back the Justice Society of America, because, while JT has always been a confused and incompetent half-wit, he also happens to have the ability to bring back the JSA with a single wish.

Joker(s) Wild

Apparently, there isn't a Joker; there are three of them.  Again, another concept so ridiculous I support it, well, 300%.  I'll take any out given from the corner into which Scott Snyder has painted the Clown Prince of Crime.

As long as this is one of them.

Nemo custodiebat

Apparently, we may be learning that the all-powerful being who's lost touch with all humanity and has a badly confused sense of reality who is responsible for screwing up the New52 universe by recreating it without the essentials of love and legacy is...

Dr. Manhattan.

Close enough!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

And I know it!


Friday, May 13, 2016

Flashy Art

I've been waiting to post until the much-anticipated "Rebirth" of the DCU.  Little reason to fuss over the details of DC digging its universe out of the mud it drove it into in just five years.  Better to wait until after it's been through the car wash.

But I have been seeing good signs about what's coming, I am heartened by most of them.  In Batman, limbs have been sewed back on and the Bunnyman suit is in a glass case in a darker corner of the Hall of Trophies.

"If only we weren't all drawn by Curt Swan, we might be able to recognize him!"

Green Lantern will be getting by in its time-honored way: avoiding Hal Jordan, and focusing on someone else instead.

He's a car thief with a gun obsession; she's a paranoid crime vicitm. 
Together they fight crime as if they're on a '80s teevee show.

There's a plan for putting Superman back on track; it's weird, but then again, Superman stories are ALWAYS weird, when you come right down to it.

Don't knock it till you've tried it, Lo-Lo.

Wonder Woman is back in the hands of team that made her enjoyable for me, and frankly, I don't care how ridiculous you may think it is.

Rule 41, baby.

Green Arrow is, well, Green Arrow will still be stupid, but at least recognizably so. 

We don't know either, Ollie. Something about werewolves.
Let's just all move on, shall we?

Lord only knows what will become of the Martian Manhunter.  Maybe they're going to let me write him and their email to me got lost; yes, I'm sure that's it.

If so, you WILL see Mr. Moth again. 
Possibly in a team up with Dr Light or Killer Moth.

But the real current surprise for me is that the previews for Flash have OVERWHELMED me.  And in a way completely uncharacteristic of me:

The art.

Comics are a marriage of two media, drawing and writing (plotting, really).  As comics goes, I'm a 'writer person' not an 'artist person'.  It's not that I don't LIKE art.  I used to work in an art museum, in fact.  It just seldom makes as big an impression on me (in comics) as the writing does.

Well, the forthcoming issues of the Flash are a strong and welcome exception.  

The art matters in all comics. But it matters more in some than others.  It's easy to imagine just reading a text story about Batman, Superman, or even Aquaman. But Flash?  No; superspeed is a power you need to SEE.

And these Flash pages are so full of genius, it's hard for me to discuss, because I feel that, as a non-artist, I may not even have the talent required to understand how good they are.  Obvious high points are the mastery or framing and composition within each panel and across them.  The clever use of panel sizes and color in the second page.  The intentional 'swipe' of the Flash's classic on-the-run pose. The amazing tricks used to distinguish background from foreground in a more realistic yet artistic way than I have ever seen in comics.  Most important is that all the elements are not gratuitous artistry; they are clearly being used to tell the STORY.

Carmine DiGiandomenico and Neil Googe, my hat is off to you.  I look forward to your upcoming work on The Flash.

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Holy Grail of Lost Comics

Apparently, the Holy Grail was discovered.  Five years ago. And no one told me.

At least, MY Holy Grail. Specifically, the "lost comic" Joker #10.  For those who don't already know, the Joker had his own comic book in the mid-'70s, which was, well, insane.  Here's a single-panel that should make that point:

That is the Joker in an afro-wig having lunch at a burger joint with Lex Luthor.
You can never unsee that; you're welcome.  

Those nine issues were the stuff of lunatic legend. Are they good?  That ...that word simply is not relevant to The Joker series.  Go buy the collected edition on Comixology and see for yourself.

What is NOT in the collected edition, however, are the Letters Pages from those issues.  Including the one from #9, which announced that in the next issue the Joker would be taking on the Justice League in a story called "99 and 99/100 % Dead!"  Imagine the excitement of that announcement for tweener-me.

NOW imagine my disappointment when...they canceled The Joker. BEFORE Issue #10.  What the HECK was going to happen in that story?  For 40 years I have not known and it was the general consensus that NO ONE would ever know.  The art was lost, the story was lost.  Irv Novick died and the artwork didn't turn up.  "99 and 99/100 %"  might as well have been one of the lost plays of Aeschylus.

Until 2011, when apparently writer Marty Pasko found some xeroxed pages of it in the bottom of some storage boxes and auctioned them off on eBay.  I didn't hear about it at the time but I stumbled across this info yesterday while researching something entirely different.  The available pages are inserted below (as is the text of the ebay auction, which if I had known about, you can be damned sure wouldn't have stopped at $200).  

The missing pages make it a little hard to follow's a The Joker story.  Having all the pages wouldn't make it more comprehensible, it would just make it more FULLY incomprehensible.

As breath-taking as the experience of finally reading (most of) a comic that I thought had never even been drawn has been... the story is the first of a multi-parter, which a huge cliffhanger.  Which I now have NO HOPE of ever uncovering.  Which is driving me crazy.

Which, I suppose, is how The Joker should be anyway.

The ongoing liquidation of the vast comics and memorabilia collection of TV animation and comics writer Martin Pasko (“Thundarr,” “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” “Batman: The Animated Series,” “The Tick,” Superman,” “Dr. Fate,” “Blackhawk,” et al.)

“I acquired this as the writer of what would be the final issue of DC’s short-lived THE JOKER ongoing monthly.  It comprises 17 Xeroxed pages at the same size as the originals (12 x 17), folded in the center.  The sheets are plain paper rather than thermal and only slightly yellowing.  They are still supple.  Because they’ve been sitting at the bottom of a box 35 years, under several pounds of papers stacked atop them, they remain comparatively unworn and are eminently readable, if that’s why you’re interested.This issue was never published, but it was NOT, as has been erroneously reported on the internet, a victim of the so-called “DC Implosion” of 1976, meaning IT WAS NOT EVEN INCLUDED IN THE RARE AND EXTREMELY VALUABLE “CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE” ASHCAN!!  The original boards were returned to penciller IRV NOVICK and inker VINCE COLLETTA, both of whom are dead.  I’ve never seen any of those boards “in circulation” among dealers, however.
Because this story, entitled “99 and 99/100% Dead,” was “forecast” in JOKER #9’s “Coming next issue” blurb, many Joker fans over the years have asked me whatever happened to it.  When I told them I thought I had a copy of the art in my files, they EXPRESSED THE BELIEF -- WHICH I CAN’T CONFIRM OR REFUTE -- THAT THESE XEROXES MAY BE THE ONLY RECORD OF THIS STORY THAT SURVIVES.  This seems credible because, as of 8/6/11, a Google search -- of both images AND text -- turns up no results, and a search of the Heritage Auctions database comes up empty as well.  Moreover, Editor Julie Schwartz did not keep a Xerox to later bequeath to DC, and only the Novick and Colletta estates would know whatever became of the boards.  So, at last, here it is!
FYI, the story is a piece of absurdist humor, written by me with a plotting assist from PAUL KUPPERBERG, in which The Joker tells a psychiatrist of his efforts to kill THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, of whom we meet GREEN ARROW, WONDER WOMAN, & THE FLASH.  It’s not a self-contained story, but rather was planned as the first part of a 2- or 3-issue arc.  Ah, the best-laid plans, etc...”  -- Martin Pasko